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Then & Now: Racial Segregation

A century ago whites went to great lengths to keep out non-whites, including deed restrictions:

On February 16, 1911, thirty out of a total of thirty-nine owners of property fronting both sides of Labadie Avenue between Taylor Avenue and Cora Avenue in the city of St. Louis, signed an agreement, which was subsequently recorded, providing in part:

‘* * * the said property is hereby restricted to the use and occupancy for the term of Fifty (50) years from this date, so that it shall be a condition all the time and whether recited and referred to as ( sic) not in subsequent conveyances and shall attach to the land, as a condition precedent to the sale of the same, that hereafter no part of said property or any [334 U.S. 1 , 5] portion thereof shall be, for said term of Fifty-years, occupied by any person not of the Caucasian race, it being intended hereby to restrict the use of said property for said period of time against the occupancy as owners or tenants of any portion of said property for resident or other purpose by people of the Negro or Mongolian Race.’

The entire district described in the agreement included fifty-seven parcels of lamd. The thirty owners who signed the agreement held title to forty-seven parcels, including the particular parcel involved in this case. At the time the agreement was signed, five of the parcels in the district were owned by Negroes. One of those had been occupied by Negro families since 1882, nearly thirty years before the restrictive agreement was executed. The trial court found that owners of seven out of nine homes on the south side of Labadie Avenue, within the restrit ed district and ‘in the immediate vicinity’ of the premises in question, had failed to sign the restrictive agreement in 1911. At the time this action was brought, four of the premises were occupied by Negroes, and had been so occupied for periods ranging from twenty-three to sixty-three years. A fifth parcel had been occupied by Negroes until a year before this suit was instituted. (Source)

The above was part of the majority decision of the US Supreme Court on May 3, 1948 when they ruled it was unconstitutional for the state to enforce such deed restrictions.

ABOVE: This house at 4600 Labadie was at the center of the case Shelley v Kraemer. Click for map.

Today the situation is reversed, some African-Americans are trying hard to keep whites out of north St. Louis.

In March the BBC did a video report on the dividing line:

Delmar Boulevard, which spans the city from east to west, features million-dollar mansions directly to the south, and poverty-stricken areas to its north. What separates rich and poor is sometimes just one street block. (BBC)

I was recently told that whites shouldn’t be involved north of Delmar because it’s not their community. Whites that move north of Delmar are gentrifiers. North St. Louis is sparsely populated and and incomes are substantially less than south of Delmar.  Clearly more people with higher incomes are needed in north St. Louis to reduce this disparity.

When I was in real estate I had a middle-class African-American family looking to move from St. Louis County to the city but they made it clear to me — they didn’t want to live in the ghetto. I represented them in the purchase as  a fully renovated home in McKinley Heights. We did look at property in north St. Louis, but only for rental purposes, not for them.

Some see whites as a threat, gentrifiers that will cause rents and sale prices to go up.  Maybe, but more people with greater income will mean more jobs as businesses spring up. Some of the new entrepreneurs  could be current African-Americans.

My interest in St. Louis doesn’t stop at Delmar. My interest in the region doesn’t stop at the city limits. If a white person wants to live north of Delmar then go for it.  It was wrong last century for whites to attempt to exclude nonwhites and it’s wrong today for African-Americans to attempt to exclude whites from the same area.

I didn’t like being told to butt out of areas north of Delmar.

– Steve Patterson


Power Wheelchairs Aren’t Vehicles

I use a power wheelchair when I go out for a long “walk” or if I’m using mass transit. In doing so I stick to the sidewalks and crosswalks as best I can, I know this is safer for me. But others seem to think their chairs are vehicles. I’ve posted before about wheelchair users in the street. Recently I saw one in the street that had me and everyone on the bus in shock:

ABOVE: This guy came from Page Ave and went north on Kingshighway between the lanes
ABOVE: Close up we can see an oxygen tank on the chair

Really? Maybe he needs help understanding how to get around safely? He probably used to bicycle against traffic. I just don’t get it, I can’t think of a more dangerous place for him to be.  The sidewalk in that part of Kingshighway is fine for use.

– Steve Patterson



LED Street Lighting Is Impressive

Thursday evening I was waiting for the #4 MetroBus at Natural Bridge and Newstead (map) when I looked up and noticed the streetlights were LEDs.

ABOVE: Looking west on Natural Bridge from Newstead

I don’t know anything about the fixtures themselves or when they were installed but I like the coloring of the light — not yellow like the one old fixture still in front of the Julia Davis Library. Apparently these are part of a test program.


Per the above story a “fixture and bulb for LED lighting can cost more than $600 or five times as much as the city spend on a street light right now” but potentially cut our electric bill in half.

– Steve Patterson


Four Decades Since First Demolition At Pruitt-Igoe

March 16, 2012 Featured, History/Preservation, North City, Planning & Design, Urban Renewal Comments Off on Four Decades Since First Demolition At Pruitt-Igoe

Forty years ago today the first of Pruitt-Igoe’s 33 high rise towers was leveled by implosion. Today most of the site remains vacant and overgrown.

ABOVE: The steeples of St. Stanislaus Kostka are visible through the overgrowth on the former Pruitt-Igoe site.

I first walked the site over 20 years ago, it was easier to traverse in 1991. Amazing the site can sit vacant for a longer period than the buildings did.

Here are a couple of short videos you might find interesting:



 Hopefully in the next four decades we will see the site be redeveloped and occupied again.

– Steve Patterson


The Last Public Housing Complex Tower in St. Louis

Decades ago many high rise public housing towers existed in numerous large scale public housing projects in St. Louis. The most infamous were the Wendell Oliver Pruitt and William L. Igoe Homes, better known simply as Pruitt-Igoe. Friday marks the 40th anniversary of the demolition of the first of its 33 buildings.

ABOVE: The Darst-Webbe towers on the near south side circa 1990-91, razed
ABOVE: The last Vaughn tower being razed in October 2006
ABOVE: The last tower from Cochran Gardens was razed in 2011

In the Fall it was announced the last of four towers at the former Blumeyer complex would be razed after new low-rise housing is built:

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded the city of St. Louis $7.8 million to help redevelop the area around the city’s last public housing tower for families. (St. Louis Public Radio)

The last tower was part of the Blumeyer complex.

ABOVE: Blumeyer Elderly Apartments being prepped for demolition, October 2006
ABOVE: Low-rise & high-rise buildings at Blumeyer before being razed, October 2006

By the time Blumeyer was built in 1967 problems were becoming clear at older public housing complexes such as Cochran Gardens and Pruitt-Igoe. The latter only had high rise towers but the former had  a mix of low-rise and high rise buildings. Blumeyer had just four towers, not grouped together.

ABOVE: Blumeyer Elderly Apartments, January 2007

Growing up in a largely white middle-class area of suburban Oklahoma City the closest I’d come to a high-rise public housing tower was watching Good Times (1974-79).I knew I had to see this last complex tower — completed the year I was born. The last tower is located at 3501 Franklin.

ABOVE: Looking east across Grand at the last Blumeyer tower
ABOVE: 3501 Franklin approached from Franklin & Theresa
ABOVE: Looking north on Theresa from Franklin
ABOVE: The NE corner of the tower
ABOVE: Looking north at the west side of the tower
ABOVE: Walled courtyard, unfurnished, on the south end of the tower
ABOVE: The building is full but the directory is empty
ABOVE: Looking north from the lobby toward the management office
ABOVE: The only community space is the laundry room
ABOVE: Hallway on an upper floor

Management was unable to show me an apartment, they don’t have a display. I was able to talk a young man to show me the 2-bedroom apartment where he lives with his family. The apartment was small but clean, nothing fancy. Good storage. I wish I had written down his name to thank him for allowing me in his place.

A few other high rise public housing towers remain in the city but those weren’t part of larger complexes that have been rebuilt under the federal Hope VI program.

– Steve Patterson